The expertise of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence is in the area of addressing domestic violence as a workplace issue. We take this very seriously. After all, helping employers thinking through how best to implement policies and programs regarding domestic violence is serious business. This cannot be done halfway.
I recently saw an "expert" interviewed about domestic violence and the workplace who suggested that one way workplaces could keep victims safe would be to have them work AT HOME.
This is probably one of the least safe things a person could ever recommend. While it is true that an abuser can find a victim at a physical workplace, the abuser can most certainly always find a victim at home, and at home, the victim is alone and vulnerable and does not necessarily have all the workplace supports and mechanisms and physical barriers available that one does at a physical workplace (which is one of the reasons telecommuting must be planfully considered when addressing domestic violence and safety for employees. But that is a topic for another blogpost).
I am not sure if this "expert" was not thinking, if he/she was misquoted, or if the person is really not an expert at all. After all, a little knowledge -- when dealing with domestic violence as a workplace issue -- is a dangerous thing.
I shudder to think of this piece of misinformation being requoted as "good advice" or read by an employer who, without any other outside input, uses this piece of information, thinking it would be "safer for an employee to work at home" than at the workplace.
When addressing domestic violence as a workplace issue, it is not enough to have good intentions, it is not enough to care about domestic violence. One has to be able to understand a workplace and how to best keep it safe.
There is a system of Three R’s that we recommend to workplaces wishing to address domestic violence as a workplace issue (and this information is available on our website at http://www.caepv.org in our Six Steps to Creating a Workplace Program document.)
• Recognize – Recognize that domestic violence has an impact on your workplace and learn how to see potential signs in your employees or co-workers
• Respond – Responding at work should always be in the context of behavior and performance. The goal is not to violate an employee’s privacy, but rather be able to say (for example) “You are a valued team member. There have been changes in your performance and you are missing your target goals and seem more distracted than usual. Is there anything going on that I can help you with?” The employee may not share anything, in which case you can remind him or her of the resources available and remind the employee that your door is always open. And if the employee does share, you can move to the next “R” – Refer.
Responding to someone outside the workplace is a bit different. For help with that, check out one of my blog posts about approaching someone you care about if you are concerned they may not be in a safe relationship.
• Refer – Refer the employee to the resources within the workplace (such as EAP, HR, etc) that can assist them and also refer the employee to the community resources that can provide help.
There is actually a fourth “R” if a workplace gets really good - Reach Out. Partner with the community and other employers.
This is a very brief overview of steps an employer can take to address domestic violence as a workplace issue - and our website is full of resources and information to assist. More information is available on our website at http://www.caepv.org/ as well as in the article mentioned above.
It is our hope that employers and victims are given the information that increases safety. We don't want a little knowledge to be a dangerous thing for anyone.